The True Story behind the Legend
of Irish Coffee Recipes

Many bartenders boast about their Irish coffee recipes.

Many people believe the first Irish coffee was invented in San Francisco, where so many Irish-Americans made their homes. But it was actually invented by Chef/Bartender Joe Sheridan in 1943 in Ireland.

And the story behind its creation makes the Irish Coffee recipe a symbol of Ireland's unmatched hospitality.

In the early 1940's, Sheridan wanted to create a drink that would soothe the cold and weary American travelers disembarking from 18 hours of flight on a "Flying Boat" - the first transatlantic passenger planes.

He knew it had to be warm and soothing, yet also sophisticated enough to be pleasing to international travellers.

After years of experimentation, Sheridan perfected his Irish coffee recipe. When the Shannon International Airport opened in 1947, Sheridan's Irish Coffee became its official drink.

San Francisco Chronicle journalist, Stan Delaplane introduced the Irish Coffee recipe to the world at the Buena Vista Cafe in the early 1950's.

Delaplane didn't do quite so well making his own version of the Irish Coffee recipe, though. He couldn't seem to get the cream to float on top. What resulted was a muddy-looking mess, a pathetic attempt to copy Chef Sheridan's rich concoction.

A local dairy farmer solved the dilemma, suggesting that the cream be beaten only until thickened, not fully whipped.

Problem solved!

The American version of the Irish Coffee Recipe was a hit!

By 1953 Irish Coffee had become the official beverage of San Francisco. Quickly the Irish Coffee recipe made its way all across the country as a perennial favorite in taverns and pubs big and small. Soon, people everywhere had learned how to make Irish coffee.

Now it's your turn...

Fantasy Ireland Celtic Knot Divider

Chef Sheridan's
Original Irish Coffee Recipe

  • Heat up a stemmed whiskey goblet.
  • Pour in one shot of Irish whiskey.
  • Drop in three white sugar cubes.
  • Fill nearly to the top of the goblet with strong black coffee (stop about an inch from the rim).
  • Stir gently.
  • Pouring it over the back of a spoon, gently add heavy cream to fill the goblet, floating it on top of the coffee.
  • Do not stir - the full flavor as intended is achieved by sipping this drink through the cream.

Hint: If at all possible, use fresh cream with no additives for the best effect. Most heavy cream for sale in stores in the United States contains additives, which can actually make it difficult to float the cream on the coffee.

Contributed by Lori Holuta of

Click here to return to the TOP of this page

Fantasy Ireland Celtic Knot Divider

21st Century Irish-American Coffee


  • 1 ounce shot of Irish Whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon of raw sugar
  • Fresh, strong, black coffee
  • Heavy cream freshly whipped to peak


  • Gently warm an Irish Whiskey/Coffee glass in hot water.
  • Pour whiskey and sugar into the glass and stir.
  • Add the coffee filling the glass to within half an inch or so of the top. Stir again.
  • Gently pour the cream onto the top of the mixture using the back of a spoon to form floating layer of cream on top. Do not stir.
  • Chocolate shavings on top of the cream are a nice touch.

This is delicious, but I highly recommend going for the original, if at all possible! The best way to enjoy genuine Irish coffee, of course, is sitting in the Shannon International Airport, after a long transatlantic flight, just like the travelers who inspired the original Irish coffee recipe. There you'll be, with your soothing mug of Irish coffee in hand, ready to start your own Ireland vacation!

AHHHH! Paradise!

Click here to return to the TOP of this page

Fantasy Ireland Celtic Knot Divider

Back home, daydreaming of Ireland again, you'll want to sample a few ways to bring Irish coffee into your afternoon tea (or even your midnight snacks!)

Irish Coffee Cake



  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 eggs


  • 2/3 cup fresh, strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Irish whiskey


  • 2/3 cup whipped cream
  • 1 heaping tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Irish whiskey
  • Chopped hazelnuts or grated chocolate


Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter an 8-inch bundt cake pan and coat well with flour (or spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray).

In a bowl cream together the butter and the sugar then add the eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour and baking powder and fold in 2/3 of it then add the 2 tablespoons strong coffee. Fold in the remainder of the flour.

Place in the prepared cake pan and bake in a pre heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Cake is done when toothpick comes out clean.

When cake is done turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

To make the syrup heat sugar in coffee until it has all dissolved then boil rapidly for one minute. Remove from the heat and beat in the whiskey.

Return the cooled cake to well washed and dried pan and pour the syrup over the top of it. Leave it to soak for several hours.

Beat up whipped cream with powdered sugar and whiskey. Turn the cake out onto a serving plate and decorate with cream and chopped hazelnut or chocolate shavings.

Click here to return to the TOP of this page

Fantasy Ireland Celtic Knot Divider

Irish Coffee Muffins


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoon coffee liqueur
  • 2 tablespoon Irish whiskey
  • Milk, as needed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine


Line 12 muffin-tin cups with paper liners. Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir well.

In a 1-cup measure, dissolve coffee granules in coffee liqueur and whiskey. Add enough milk to measure 1 cup. Whisk egg in a bowl with coffee-milk mixture. Whisk in melted butter.

Gently stir liquid into dry ingredients just until moistened. Spoon into muffin tin. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top springs back when gently touched.

Makes 1 dozen Irish coffee muffins.

Contributed by Mary Ellen from

Fantasy Ireland Celtic Knot Divider

Click here to return to the TOP of this page

Our Irish coffee recipes are just the beginning...
Click here for our other easy Irish recipes

Return to the Homepage

Fantasy Ireland Celtic Knot Divider

Site Map



My Story

Contact Me

Privacy Policy

Creative Commons License

Fantasy Ireland is created by
Deborah A. Felker
and is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
For permissions beyond the scope
of this license contact the author.